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Compare and Contrast June 19, 2016

Posted by blith3 in Ramblings.
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And so, after 10 months of misadventures…here I am – done with my first year of graduate school! It’s been a struggle with enough personal tests and revelations of self-discovery to compensate for my twenties. And as I look back at my crazy experience thus far, despite the obvious differences about my student life this time around, I have noticed that are a few similarities as well.

Things that have remained the same:

  1. I still talk to my family (almost) every night
  2. I am still horrible with numbers, with the worst grades in my statistics course
  3. I am still at my best when writing papers
  4. I still work too hard, investing way more time than I should in assignments
  5. I am on a scholarship (hey, hey!)
  6. I have had to build a new social circle
  7. I am still living in a dormitory AND sharing a room
  8. I still don’t like being active in school activities

Things that have differed:

  1. While I used to have my childhood friends with me, I am my own
  2. Rather than studying out of state, I am now in a foreign country on the other side of the world
  3. All my close friends are female as compared to primarily males previously
  4. Most of my friends now are lastborns instead of firstborns
  5. I spend more time alone than hanging out friends
  6. Rather than music calming me when studying, it’s now ambient sound
  7. 99% of the class is younger than me rather than me being younger than 99% of the class
  8. Instead of having my own car, I now fully rely on public transportation to get around


The lesson from this note to self? Just goes to remind that no matter how much circumstances change, the only constant that remains is you.


Of grades and warts April 15, 2016

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Since Day One of graduate school, “Grades don’t matter”  has been the mantra drilled into us by the professors, faculty members and alumni. In addition, there’s also been some variation of…”The worse you will ever get is a B+” or “All that is important is the capital accumulation.”

Of course, as any student from Asia will tell you…that’s impossible. How can you confidently accumulate knowledge, but fare horribly on tests? It just doesn’t make sense. To know something, is to explain and apply the concepts or theory when asked.

Only…I am 33-years-old, unused to having to explain academic concepts after so long and totally flabbergasted by the American situational-style of questioning. And let’s not factor in that there is always that one professor each semester that expects you to churn out answers just like him that reading his answer keys makes your head spin.

Suffice it to say that I have been consistently disappointed with my test scores. For two semesters, I have turned in quality papers and problem sets – but have been completely tanking my tests. And I mean completely. My primary, secondary and undergraduate selves would be horrified to know that they turned out this way.

And here is now where – to borrow a hot phrase among my American friends – I check my privilege. I suppose this inability to push myself that much more – and for the record, I already spend most of my time working on just keeping up with the workload and these crazy 20-something youngsters who are nearly a decade younger than me – is likely influenced by the fact that I have a secure job waiting for me back home. Yes, I want to do well in class. Yes, I’d like to be technically sound. And yes, the things I have learned over the past year are useful and have definitely changed my views about how I approach my work.

It’s just that…I also know that balance is key. Although I am back in school, I know that there are other lessons in life that I am suppose to learn, beyond what is in the classroom. Also, I am no longer the same youngster who prioritises studies above all else. Being half a globe away from family and close friends, I have learned to take the time out to take care of – both physically and emotionally – myself and the people close to my heart. And I can do this because my career prospects are not purely dependent on my academic grades. For the past 10 years, I have worked my butt off and sacrificed parts of myself (some of which I am unable to retrieve) to the rat race. It is my privilege and it is also my flaw – and I own that.

So truly, “grades don’t matter”. What does matter is putting your best foot forward everyday and making peace with what is right for you, warts and all.

Romanticism and reality April 3, 2016

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Life is strange. You can spend a significant time working towards something, and just when you least expect it, life reveals the secret that you have longed to hear an answer for. And when it does, it is without much ceremony, and almost always when you least expect it.

While I have long suspected this – I call it my “But Story” – there’s nothing quite like suddenly being hit with the epiphany and the utter clarity that comes with it. And the epiphany is…I am never going to fall in love. Well, at least not in the traditional way – i.e. finding a romantic partner.

Now, I know it might seem presumptuous of me to say this. And trust me, I appreciate that because I have had my share of experiences where I end up putting a foot into my mouth after declaring something so confidently. But there was something so final, so…resolute…in the realization that washed over me yesterday.

Again, I know it might sound “out there”, but to be honest, it is not an entirely surprising outcome. Ask anyone who knows me well enough – including my parents – about my romantic prospects, and they will tell you that I have never been one to put much value on finding a romantic partner. So realistically speaking, I was unlikely to fall in love anyway.

Having said that, I do still get giddy around a guy I fancy as much as the next heterosexual woman and I’d as soon splash (a reasonable) amount of money on flattering clothes to look good. In other words, while I didn’t have much faith in finding a romantic partner, the slim possibility of it happening was what made it exciting for me in the instances when I did find someone attractive.

So, when the epiphany dawned on me – as I read my monthly horoscope – I can honestly say that a part of me actually mourned. It was surreal to read about the promised eventful outcomes in my love life this month only because – irrespective of one’s degree of belief in astrology and serendipitous occasions – it felt like a bunch of missed opportunities.

So while I mourn the fact that I am unlikely to fall into a whirlwind romance and be swept off my feet, the other part of me knows that I am great just the way I am. I have always been fine and will grow to be fabulous in the future. Until then…it’s nose back to the grind – tests to take and papers to write!

Run Baby Run August 27, 2014

Posted by blith3 in TV.
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The first time I watched Running  Man, I had no idea what it was. My family and I were visiting my uncle who was awaiting heart surgery at the nation’s premiere heart institute. Whilst my father and mother monopolized the conversation, I turned my attention to the muted TV and saw an Asian guy creeping up to masses hidden under blankets, only to jump back in surprise when middle-aged ladies popped up from under the blankets. As there were no subtitles, I had to really concentrate to figure out what was happening, but the entire episode – which included a water game and an elimination race – was the most HILARIOUS thing I had ever seen in a long while (for the curious, google Running Man Episode 56). I never got to know what it was called, though I had pegged it to be of Japanese origin.

Fast forward nearly a year later and after a few weeks of catching up with the latest in Korean entertainment (she has her phases), my mother invited me to watch a show with her, saying she wanted to point out to me this guy that she had grown fond of – Jung Yonghwa from the band CNBLUE (full name:  Code Name Beautiful Love Unique Emotional).


I had to hand it to my mom, she had found Korean gold…two times over. I could see why my mom liked Yonghwa – he’s good-looking, he’s agile and he thinks on his feet. The latter two, you probably wouldn’t expect to pick up on a TV show. But that’s where the second pot of gold comes in – Running Man is not just any show, it is a variety show of the most elite kind! I got hooked on the show almost immediately and it was only after watching a few episodes, did I realize that this was the random Japanese show I saw last year.

So, what is Running Man? It may not be as immediately and internationally recognizable as other TV series like say, CSI or The Voice, but trust me, when I say that it’s one of the highest rated shows in the world. Or…you could just Google it to be sure.

Now, I know what Western-influenced readers are thinking. Variety shows usually fall into one of two categories – improvisational comedy and/or musical sketches or gameshows. This is where Running  Man breaks the  stereotypical mold by combining elements of both – which I understand is the norm of Korean variety shows – and, this is what sets it apart from its counterparts, ups the ante completely.

Into it’s 4th year, Running Man comprises a core cast of seven Korean celebrities who – judging from the episode count – seem to film every single Monday. They are joined each week with other guest celebrities to play mind-bending games that test their physical, mental, emotional and social strengths. It may sound cheesy, but wait…the devil’s in the details.

You see, the show is not confined to filming on a stage or studio – it can range from a rural Korean village to a famous Korean mall to even tourist spots in foreign countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Macao, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Australia. None of the cast members, including the guest celebrities, know what they will be playing for the day. And these games are no walk in the park often requiring them to interact with members of the public and with the longer, trickier games taking (by my estimation based on the captions that appear on the screen) possibly over an hour to play and film. Plus, there’s always a twist to each game – forcing the players to think on their feet. And again, they film across the seasons! From water games during the summer to open-air cooking during the dead of autumn to running the indoor of buildings in the middle of the winter nights, it’s true testament to what is required of those involved in the show – from the Project Directors (who design and vet the games), the film crew, the Running Man cast and even the guests.

The most entertaining game though, hands down, is that which gave the show its name. A staple and fan favourite, cast and their guest celebrities are placed into teams with the sole objective of eliminating the other team from the race. To do so, players have to remove nametags stuck on the backs of individual members. Most people would think “safety in numbers” and so, to discourage a herd mentality and to prolong the game, cheats are scattered around the canvass area for the players to find to swing the odds into their favour. Of course, because it’s a variety show, the parameters of the race changes from time to time, such as only eliminating players in a specific order or in pairs or even switching between the teams to be the “hunter” or “hunted”. In such cases, bells are attached to the shoes of hunter players and trust me, the ringing of the bells as a “hunter” approaches down a quiet hallway it scares the bejeezuz out of the audience as much as the “hunted”. It’s during this game that you see the smarts of the players shine through and you know they really mean it…because you never know when the prize up for grabs is plain old GOLD.

Crazy, right?

To add on to the complexity of the show, some episodes serve to also promote certain TV shows coming out in Korea, presumably those produced by the TV network that owns Running Man, SBS Broadcasting. During these themed episodes, the level of detail that goes into planning a Running Man episode becomes crazily apparent and I must say, it does successfully and effectively ignite interest in the promoted show. If you think about it, it’s marketing at its most genius really. Not only do you attract the interest of the primary market in Korea just as the show is being released, but now with the Internet, it also serves to expose to the international market to other shows they might not have known about and create secondary demand.

Of course, the genius of the backstage can only go so far in terms of sustaining the popularity of a TV show. To me, what really speaks to the audience is the chemistry of the core cast who provide dialogue that is arguably better than anything written by top screenwriters around the world. Their playful banter, sometimes innocent, sometimes steeped in not-so friendly rivalries, translates even with the subtitles (let’s face it, subtitles often ruins shows)! And because the interaction is so organic, sometimes bits of their personal lives are dredged up, much to the glee of fans who come off feeling that more connected to the cast. In addition, because the cast are such good terms, individual members are sometime bestowed nicknames when specific events happen and are referred to in subsequent episodes (the production crew helpfully clue viewers in by complementing with brief flashbacks) – just like how it happens in real life.

And so, here is the brief 411 on the Running Man cast:

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Jae-Suk, YOO: MC. The unofficial leader of the cast and arguably, the most popular cast member amongst fans in Korea. Also known as Yoo-ruce Willis for his sharp senses and ability to barely scrap through tough situations.

Suk-Jin, JI: MC. Eldest member of the cast and the most patient of all. Also known as Big Nose Hyung (or Big Nosed Brother) for his seemingly large nose.

Jong-Kook, KIM: Singer. Physically and mentally the most formidable cast member. Known as Spartakooks for his physical strength likened to that of a Spartan gladiator, or Mr. Capable for his superior analytical and tactical intellect.

Ji-Hyo, SONG: Actress. The only female cast member and coincidentally, the one who has scored the most gold wins so far. Known as Blank Ji for her poker face or Ace Ji for her sharp intellect and her seemingly endless good luck. One-half of The Monday Couple (as Running Man only films on Mondays).

Hee-Gung, KANG aka Gary KANG: Rapper, Lyricist, Businessman. The most serious and steady cast member. Known as Peaceful Gary for his cool, sometimes clueless demeanour. One-half of The Monday Couple.

Dong-Hoon, HA aka HAHA: Comedian. Reformed on-screen playboy, he is also shortest and one of the slyest cast members. Known as Haroro for his likeness to the Korean cartoon penguin, Pororo.

Kwang-Soo, LEE: Actor, Model. The youngest and tallest cast member with a penchant for bending the rules to the point it’s almost breaking them. Known as Prince of Asia for being arguably the most popular cast member to fans outside of Korea or Kwangvatar for his running style akin to the aliens in Avatar.

I love watching Running Man because it’s entertaining without dumbing down your faculties by playing up on the (faked out) drama. So, despite its relatively long duration at 1.5 hours per episode, I’d highly recommend it to anyone wanting to unwind for the day.

It’s almost serendipitous that shortly after Running Man finally registered on my radar, that it was announced that half of the cast would be coming to Malaysia for a promotional event. Suk-Jin oppa, Jong-Kook oppa, Haha oppa and Ji-Hyo eonni, I hope to see the four of you on 1 November 2014!

Getting My Groove Back July 16, 2014

Posted by blith3 in Ramblings.
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So, as it tends to happen ever so often with me,  I have gone out of balance. Again, I am guilty of investing too much time and effort into addressing recent developments in my life that I have ignored pursuing interests are fulfilling to me.

That wouldn’t have been so bad, I guess, if these developments i.e. furthering my studies overseas and everything other thing that comes with it, had been sorted out quickly and in a timely fashion. But it’s been a whole 6 months since I was accepted to further studies and STILL there has not been any progress other than that. It taken me until today to realise that while being in limbo over my scholarship application is emotionally draining, it is the deprivation of doing my favourite things that has really been the difference between tolerable and unmotivated…the latter of which is where I am right now.

And so, I have compiled the following list:


  • VOLUNTEER WORK (a new pursuit)

Wish me luck. I’m starting with backdating my blog entries!

The Plan [BACKDATED] June 25, 2014

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It’s been a trying few weeks since I was given the undesirable news (see previous post). Yes, I went home on that Friday and had a part meltdown, part ranting session with my parents. Yes, I was very hurt, disappointed and completely indignant at the half-baked reason verbally communicated to me for turning me down for a scholarship. But no, no matter how strongly I felt I had been mistreated, I did not come this far to screw things up and will flush out a proper plan of attack…with major emphasis on the word “attack”.

And so I had candid conversations with my parents, mad4manu, my supervisor and my Head of Department. All of them told me the same…that I owed it to myself to find alternative sources of funding instead of doing it on my own. And I went to speak with LHY, a person whom I have come to see as – for the lack of a better word – a mentor at the workplace. I say this because our relationship doesn’t fall within the normal realms of a mentor-mentee relationship…we don’t bond over shared interests or socialise outside of the workplace.

Truth be told, I had expected LHY to be sympathetic and offer to help pull some strings (which I would have gladly accepted). But as usual, she instead gave me more than I had expected. In the span of 45 minutes, she challenged me to REALLY, REALLY think about what I wanted out of going to B and how would this impact my life overall.

She told me that in retrospect, furthering her studies did not value add as much to her professional career as she had expected. There were other, more effective ways (like moving departments to increase visibility or getting myself nominated into the corporate talent pool) to get to the next level of my career. And because of this, zeroing my finances to further my studies as a means to climb higher up the ladder was strongly unadvisable.

She also shared that she had decided, out of consideration for where she was in her personal life, to stay with the organisation. Despite her misgivings about the organisation’s flaws, it was still – in her assessment – the least broken system out there. And after a great deal of looking around, she was able to get herself into a Department that allowed her to employ her strengths and skills whilst minimising her contact to the parts of the organisational ecosystem that she did not like.

And so…after a great deal of tweaking to my original plans…I present to you, THE PLAN:


  • Pursue a one-year deferment for entry to The School at B, supported by testimonial from the Head of Department
  • Obtain in writing, the official reason for the panel not to recommend me for a scholarship
  • Get Human Resources Department to reconsider the decision to decline awarding me a scholarship
  • If all else fails, look for alternative funding…including re-applying for scholarship next year (and yes, put myself through this stupid process all over again)

KPI: TO OBTAIN SCHOLARSHIP FOR THE SCHOOL @ B…be it either for the Class of 2016 or 2017


How To Tell You [BACKDATED] June 20, 2014

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So, the moment I sank into my seat this morning, I made THE CALL to Human Resources Department. Heart hammering in my chest, these were the words I heard while on bated breath… “Hmmm…I don’t know how to tell you this…”

Words cannot adequately describe how it felt to hear that. It’s a peculiar position to be in, remaining calm on the phone and carrying on a conversation whilst my heart was slowly cracking into many a million pieces. It dawned onto me right then, at barely 9am, how much I REALLY, REALLY wanted to go to B despite my initial misgivings about spending an entire 2 years in another country, halfway across the world.

Thanks to the Internet and social media, I have slowly but surely come accustomed to the thought of being part of B. In the past few months, I have been receiving emails from the university from their administrative staff who have been immensely supportive and kind. I was also getting a feel of the activities at The School at B through its official Twitter account. And in recent days, I had even joined the Facebook page for the class I am enrolling in and really felt the spirit of going back to school.

I mean, of course, I felt intimidated at the thought of keeping up with every other student in the class who seemed to be younger and more dynamic than me. Of course I would have to overcome cultural gaps and familiarising myself with my surroundings. And of course it was daunting to reintegrate myself back into the world of academia. But armed with a host of digital information and exchange of emails, I realised that deep down, I was looking forward to a new beginning and the challenges it would bring.

Thank goodness both my supervisor and the Head of Department (my supervisor’s supervisor) were on leave in the second half of the day and that both of my staff was also away for the day.

Needless to say, I spent the rest of the day being miserable and nearly broke down several times. Once whilst relaying the news to my supervisor within the hour of finding out and several more times when I updated in my family in our chat group. Otherwise, I would have to be forced to function and that would have been felt like a much longer day than necessary.

But don’t you worry, I have worked too long, troubled too many people and come too far to take this lying down. THERE WILL BE A PLAN.



Wish Me Luck: Reprise [BACKDATED] June 13, 2014

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Today’s interview went well…I guess. I thought I was clear in delivering my points and had a frank discussion with the panellists. But I do admit, I probably could have been more persuasive when fielding some of the questions. At the end, the head of the panel said that it would be “a question of whether the Bank sees value in your course.” Knowing the personality of this guy from other colleagues, I took it to be as a good an answer as any.

Aside from this though, I found out today that another officer in my Department is leaving. Counting me, that brings the total number of officers exiting my Department this year, with the bulk of exodus between August to September, to four. Add one Manager who will be delivering in September and another Manager who is leaving at an as-yet-to-be-determined date, and you have a Department suddenly losing 1/5th of its staff strength…when only four months ago, it was just the prospect of being down by only two Managers.

The good news though is that already the Department has been doing all the right things in getting my replacement. I just hope that these other developments don’t compromise the plans for my replacement.

Wish Me Luck [BACKDATED] June 12, 2014

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Finally! After waiting for nearly a month, Human Resources Department finally got back to me about which day I am scheduled to sit for the interview with the panel. Even that, I was the one who had to follow up with them about what time it was exactly.  *SIGH*

Anyway, I am scheduled to be interviewed on…wait for it…Friday the 13th! Wonder if that’s an omen, eh?

Jokes aside though, to be honest, I have to admit that I am not as confident as I’d like to be. Whilst my confidence has largely been buoyed by the fact that I have gained entry into a decent university despite being 10 years out of academia, another part of me feels highly disadvantaged going into this interview that my “competitors” are younger than me and are well-connected. Although my closest confidants have scoffed at this, I honestly can’t help but feel that the decision will boil down to these factors.

More Hoops [BACKDATED] May 10, 2014

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When I first started out this process to further my studies, I thought the hardest part – the most emotionally discomforting – was in beginning it. To extricate myself from this shroud of complacency, question where I was heading and undertake tasks to chart a new direction like sitting for the GRE and TOEFL, identifying the universities to apply to and submitting applications.

How wrong was I! The hardest part is actually in the events following the acceptance i.e. pursuing a scholarship, completing the admission and enrolment paperwork for B, training up my staff to meet work commitments once I am away and completing personal errands. Not to mention the emotional yo-yo that comes with the knowledge that you are saying goodbye to your life in Malaysia – the people, the places – with each passing week and at the same time, are that much closer to a brand new life in another country. Realising all the things I was going to miss out…and yet, the possibilities of experiencing something new!

Granted, this is a nice kind of stress to be facing. But it doesn’t make it any less tiring on the mind and draining on the soul. Right now, my main priority is in seeing through the scholarship process – and it is my sincere hope that I will go through this as swiftly and as painlessly as possible.

After all, I am prepared to self-fund…I just need enough time to get my affairs in order.